Brian McCann (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
As a team, the New York Yankees might have the most questions. That is not necessarily a good thing as they have learned that a payroll in excess of $200 million is not enough to build a team without holes. But what we do know, is that things will be interesting in the Bronx.
The Yankees already had an abundance of buzz surrounding them, and that was before they imported Masahiro Tanaka for $155 million to be their third starter and Derek Jeter announced his retirement. Even so, I feel like my prediction might be a little conservative here, but there is the potential for that to change over the next month. We know Spring Training never fully answers all questions, but by the time the Yankees head north, they could have one of the worst infields in the league.
Prediction: 4th place American League East
Additions & Subtractions:
Where do we start? Robinson Cano departed by way of Seattle, but the Yankees certainly made up for his loss by replacing him in the lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann. All are good players and will be nice additions to the team. If Ellsbury is able to stay healthy, his combination of power and speed should flourish in New York. Beltran stabilizes the lineup and provides a good veteran presence and will more than replace the production of Curtis Granderson who went across town to the New York Mets. McCann gives the Yankees what they have been missing since the retirement of Jorge Posada, a legitimate backstop. The former Atlanta catcher can hit for power and average, but will also bring a leadership voice that has been lacking and is necessary.
There is no need to rehash the suspension of Alex Rodriguez, but the Yankees are taking a chance replacing him directly with Kelly Johnson. Johnson has no issues hitting right-handers and hitting for power, but hitting for average and also doing it consistently has been an issue at times for him. Brian Roberts brings his own set of injury related question marks as he replaces Cano at second base.
With the additions of Beltran and Ellsbury, even factoring in the loss of Granderson, the Yankees have one of the best and deepest outfields in baseball. Depending on the health situation of Matt Kemp and the mental state of Yasiel Puig, you could potentially even put them ahead of the Dodgers. Brett Gardner could easily score 100-plus runs and steal 40 bases this year and having Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki on the bench means that New York’s fourth and fifth outfielders are better than some team’s starters (including Houston’s not counting George Springer).
The infield as a whole is just filled with questions. Is Mark Teixeira’s wrist at least at 80% and will he be able to make it through the season and generate enough power even for 20 home runs? Can Brian Roberts stay healthy for the whole season and what can we expect from him? How will Johnson do at third base? What can we expect from Jeter in his last year? With Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez as the backup plans, things could go downhill quickly for the Yankees.
It is impossible to expect anyone to replace Rivera, but David Robertson needs to at least be able to hold the job all season and have a reasonable amount of success. If that does not happen, it might be too much for the Yankees to overcome.